People often look at old images of Basingstoke and wonder how much was demolished in the turbulent years of town development in the 1960s-70s.

As large parts of the northern end of the central town area were levelled for the town’s first pedestrianised town centre shopping area, it seemed an extraordinary moment.

In later years more changes happened,  as firstly The Malls were built and then in 2001, Festival Place opened.

In 1968 artist Diana Stanley published a book of historical memory called ‘Within Living Memory’.

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It included many beautiful illustrations of older parts of the town which were to be lost.

Diana Stanley was a well-known artist who had made her home in Basingstoke with Professor Charles Pannett who was a surgeon.

Many of her pastel works and drawings hang in the Discovery Centre and are well worth a visit.

The first (1960s) town centre seemed to me to be a castle – the long high brick wall in Church Street has protruding half-cylindrical ‘towers’ with patterned crenellations, and I believe that Festival Place gives us another castle – this time more of a Disney creation with turrets and pinnacles – although the reference to the architecture of the 1951 Festival of Britain is evident too.

Opposite the parish church of St Michael were two fine houses.

Queen Anne House with its rounded portico and Bedford House, which had probably been built by the Russell family as they rose in importance in the town.

Basingstoke Gazette: Bedford House in Church Street. Derek WrenBedford House in Church Street. Derek Wren (Image: Derek Wren)

The small shop next door, which older residents will remember as Mr Nutt’s shop, was the coach house and stable for the big house next door.

These two houses had escaped the WW2 bombs on 16 August 1940, which had largely destroyed some fine houses in Church Square.

Basingstoke Gazette: Mr Nutt’s shop was a coach house and stable for the big house next door.Mr Nutt’s shop was a coach house and stable for the big house next door. (Image: Derek Wren)

Today the Gardens of Remembrance take the place of this destruction.

A narrow alleyway called Bedford Place led from Church Street to Wote Street where another two fine houses stood.

One was known as Warren House and had been built by a Quaker called Charles Heath b.1756, with a Meeting House next door, known as Friends House, long used by the Quakers, with burials in the front garden which had to be exhumed in town development.

Although burials in the town had been forbidden in the late 19th century for obvious public health reasons, there were two Quaker burial grounds.

The last burials in Wote Street – there were 12 listed – was in 1850 and included Charles Heath who was 83.

Another Quaker burial ground near Norn Hill (known as Totterdown) on the old Reading Road also had to be removed for re-burial.  

A small area in the old cemetery housed Quaker burials and the exhumed remains were buried there.

Warren House became the home and office of lawyer Wills Chandler in around 1900.

As the need for the Fairfields area to provide grazing for the coach trade horses diminished, land became available for housing.

Large houses in Cliddesden Road which had sat in their own extensive grounds, such as The Shrubbery and Coombehurst were soon encroached on by substantial Edwardian family villas.

On the north of the town, Sherborne House (now flats) was built by William H Bayley for his large family.

Other prominent businessmen lived at The Mount in Bounty Road (where the Conservative Club is) – both Thomas Burberry and William Henry Blatch had lived there – Blatch was brewery manager for John May, who himself built a fine house called Hawkfield on the Winchester Road.

Coombehurst was built by Arthur Wallis, founder of the firm later known as Wallis & Steevens. His father, Richard, had lived at Eastlands in London Road.

The town’s finest house is without doubt Goldings – the mansion built by the Russell family and created out of a row of houses.

Basingstoke Gazette: Goldings mansion built by the Russell family.Goldings mansion built by the Russell family. (Image: Newsquest)

Saved (just) from demolition, the Civic Offices new block was permitted to invade the space it needs to be fully appreciated.

A restoration in the mid-1980s was essential and its current use makes a lovely space for civil ceremonies.

Basingstoke Gazette: Eastlands is one of the old houses in Basingstoke that still survives.Eastlands is one of the old houses in Basingstoke that still survives. (Image: Newsquest)

Chineham House survives as does Eastlands in London Road.  

These large gentlemen’s residences became too big and chilly for servant-less life – the fate of demolition overtook Richard Wallis’s house, Coombehurst, in Cliddesden Road and his son, John’s, at Erdesley, close by.

Basingstoke Gazette: Erdesley HouseErdesley House (Image: Newsquest)

The Shrubbery, which had been the home of Thomas Burberry Jr and his wife Mary Anne,  met the same fate although the site survives.

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Home of the Horseshoe Theatre Company for many years, its role as the town’s maternity home had ended with the opening of the new hospital in the early 1970s. 

In the remaining older part, we retain a fine house at 12 Wote Street, (Simmons & Sons) as well as the row of houses in Cross Street. 

In spite of the development of our town (which, arguably began with the coming of the railway), huge change has brought about a very different place to live, ranked within the top 50 of ‘best places to live’ in the Halifax Bank survey five years ago.